Teacher Faced With Bare Classroom Asks Who Should Pay To Outfit It

Ryan Ford
A bare looking classroom with row of desks on each side and a chalkboard in the middle
Unsplash | Ivan Aleksic

Teachers fill a vital role in society, but their profession has come under siege lately. In the U.S., school districts across the nation face a shortage of teachers willing and able to take over classrooms, and it has meant that states have to be creative to fill the gaps.

As The Washington Post reported, some Texas school districts have cut the school week to just four days. In Arizona, college students will be allowed to teach. And Florida is recruiting military veterans as teachers.

Experts say there are many factors that have led to the teacher shortage, including exhaustion, increasing politicization of their role, and a lack of respect.

A classroom with the backs of kids' heads
Unsplash | Taylor Wilcox

And, as with many other professions, a big sticking point continues to be fair compensation. One former teacher recently garnered attention online for leaving the profession in favor of a job at Walmart largely because it paid so much more.

Another teacher is drawing attention to a classic problem: who pays to furnish classrooms.

An empty table in a classroom with bare gray walls and a stack of blue chairs
TikTok | @progressivemama

A TikToker who goes by the username @progressivemama posted a video showing a bare classroom to give voice to her irritation at what continues to be expected of teachers.

"So frustrated going into my classroom today," reads the video's caption.

a bare classroom with some desks cluttered in a corner and an American flag on the wall
TikTok | @progressivemama

"No shelves for a classroom library. The desks are weird for a Kindergarten class.. No cabinets. No rug. No left over supplies or books. How much of my own money am I expected to spend?"

It's a question that will be familiar to teachers everywhere.

According to the NEA, teachers in America spend an average of about $500 of their own money to furnish their classrooms each year. While some teachers are reimbursed by their districts, nine out of every 10 are not.

This had led to many teachers pleading for donors to help fund their classrooms.

Many, including @progressivemama, will publish an Amazon wish list to get the school supplies they need, or put out an ask on DonorsChoose. It's not uncommon to find thankful posts on social media from teachers after they've received a donation that helps them provide lessons to their students.

However, not everybody was sympathetic with @progressivemama's situation.

comments on furnishing a classroom
TikTok | @progressivemama

Many commenters, apparently other teachers, chimed in to say that they had it worse than what she had posted.

"That room is clean w/ nice desks, tables, & storage. Count your blessings," one person wrote. "I have been in rooms w/ holes in the wall & floor w/ mice, insects, mold."

"I’ve moved 5 times in 16 years and NEVER had such a clean, quality space to work with," wrote another. "That furniture is amazing! I guess everything is relative."

Several commenters suggested @progressivemama not spend her own money at all.

comments on furnishing a classroom
TikTok | @progressivemama

Many thought she should simply do nothing.

"I think teachers need to start refusing to supply everything on their own and asking parents to share all the supplies. It shouldn’t be this way," one person wrote.

"Advice from a fellow teacher: spend NONE of your own money. You are paid far too little. Show this to the parents and they’ll advocate for you," wrote another.

In a follow-up video, @progressivemama provided an update.

With a combination of her own funds, some scrounging by the school's custodians, and "tons" of donations, her classroom will be well outfitted for the coming year. It's a big change from the blank gray walls of her first video.

But, she stressed that things shouldn't have to be the way they currently are.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!